“N+1”. Is the secret formula that any passionate and slightly mental mountain bikers will tell you is the secret to ultimate happiness. What is it? Its owning a “N” or number of bikes plus the next one you’re going to get come hell in high water. Mostly hell comes from your wife who “hell hath no fury” when the cheque bounces because the rent was used on a lay away plan for that new titanium full suspension frame. My wife is the best, loving and understanding of my mental obsession (she may read this post), who may at any point be planning an intervention with other mountain biker wives to snap me back into reality. Mostly her line of questioning goes more or less like this:
Her -Whats a matter with the other three on the wall? (Me- I can’t use them at the bike park, have you seen the jumps I will be riding? – actually that is not the answer she wants to hear…).
Her – Whats a matter with your hardtail that you just had custom made (Me – its too hard on my body to ride for 5 hours, a carbon fiber full suspension will be better…besides I want to change that hardtail to a single speed)
Her – You’re a fuck head.
I’ve owned a few a bikes and they each have a story in my life and immortalised in this blog (at least until I stop paying the webmaster). Here they are:
Ahh – N+1 + significant other support = happiness!
The Pathway to a Simple Riding Life Isn’t So Simple
The last time I rode a single speed was 35 years ago when ET sailed across the moon in basket on a Kuwahara BMX! I needed a BMX I told my dad! NEEDED IT! When I got one, after one of my best tantrums that involving making a deal to wipe my dad’s bum when he’s old; my first ride was sheer bliss!! BMX parks developed and I raced. My brother was a natural at it and we were the Hansen brother duo. My fondest memory was taking my BMX off the beaten path along Chapman Creek and almost prophetic, was my first mountain bike ride. Gears came, I got a road bike and BMX riding along with singlespeed faded into memory.
Over the last week, I had an epiphany that the path to a simple ride is to go singlespeed. Yes that’s right baby – 30 tooth chainring and a 21 cog in the back! Of course, I looked up on internet about setting up a singlespeed and over a couple of beers on my birthday, I set it up!
My first Instagram post was a success with comments like “You’re crazy” or “Singlespeed has three speeds – Sitting, Standing and Walking” or, my favorite, “we use gears for a reason”. Okay I get it – its hard and it doesn’t make sense but the allure of it all was too much for me to ignore it. I’m finding my 12 year old spirit!
Today was my maiden voyage of my setup. It start well, the silence of no gears was sheer bliss. Just me and my bike deeply connected to the ground. Then a hill came up, and bang my chain came off…Grrr! And then again on another hill…then probably half dozen times more. Okay so I guess singlespeeds are sensitive to chainline. That’s the one thing that I didn’t think about during my installation and, of course, 6 beers deep doesn’t help with reading ALL the setup instructions. So, on the trail and only 10 min into the ride, I just thought I’ll just slide the dropouts more to make the chain tighter. For the most part, the fixed worked except the hill that I needed to really stand and hammer. The next thing I remember after my chain came off, is driving my knee into my handlebar/lever and planting my chest onto the stem. An explosion of pain around my knee created this wave of nausea that made damn near cry and almost throwing-up. Ride over – “Sheer bliss between catastrophic failures” would be the title of my Strava ride.
As I write this post, I’m sitting on the couch with a beer to numb the pain and big ice pack on my knee. Well back to the drawing board, and the not-so-simple-riding-life continues….
Karma is Sweet, Loving and Cares for Mountain Bikers!
So I’m back on my project in Terrace visiting the trails and brought my bike again to ride for my 10 day shift. The first day, I was super stoked and rode up the paved road with vigour to get to the trails. I got about 500m into the climbing and ping my spoke blew and my tire stuck to the side of chainstay like a fly to a pile of shit. The spoke broke inside the spoke nipple and there was no way to get the broken piece out. Game over… I loosen up my sliding dropouts to cheat the tire over to one side, but it rubbed so hard making pedaling difficult going downhill. Anyway, as I got down to the trail head I stopped to talk to a fellow mountain biker. I told him where I was from and loved their trails and how I unfortunately broke a spoke. Dean was sympathetic to my issue as he had wheels like mine and difficulty finding parts to fix a broken spoke. He has since moved to different wheelset because a lack of support. Then Dean said “Wait a minute!” and proceed to go into his stuff in the back of his truck and pulled out a spoke nipple that fit my wheel. WTF! Unbelievable that I happened to stumble on the only guy in Terrace (and maybe all of north-western BC for that matter) that had spare spoke nipples. He didn’t have a spoke but I was 50% of the way there! The next day I went to Wild Bike Shop in Terrace and talked to the shop owner there. They bent over backwards to find a spoke that fit. Unfortunately they didn’t have the exact one but they did have one that I could straighten. And straighten it I did!!! I stuffed the straightened ‘j-bend’ spoke into my hub and threaded the nipple and IT WORKED! OMG! This was my first two days of 10 in my trip to Terrace! and it was looking like Day 3 was going to be awesome!
Day 3 – I rode up Terrace Mountain and back down the T2 trail to a parking lot. A riding group was gathered there and we chatted for a bit. They invited me to ride a brand new trail they just finished off that day. What the? What kind of awesome timing is this? Go on, please I don’t deserve this awesome experience..well okay if you insist. The new trail was just that! New and fresh and I was the third bike down the line. Lots of bermed corners, tons of flow and tricky rock rolls. SO MUCH FUN!!!! These riders were super passionate and loved their sport. I felt privileged to be in their company. After getting back to the parking lot, I made my way back home and bumped into a couple more riders. They invited my to ride a lesser known trail called Lower Wheel. Tara warned me that the trail was steep but she didn’t tell me that it was super steep with rock rolls and drops! I should have known after she told me that she just got back from the BC Enduro event in Williams Lake. Tara was skilled!
When you’ve paid a substantial amount of money to Air Canada to travel with your bike and then you break your bike, you’d think that Karma is a bitch. She was just pointing you in the right direction to meet some awesome riders, awesome trails and making my trip an awesome experience. I say that Karma is sweet and loves mountain bikers! Thank you Karma!!
Every now and then, my competition side of me comes out to play – Strava as ruined me! Lately though I’ve been riding just to enjoy the trails and do a little exploring. This week I had some work with a firm in Powell River and got out into the Penticton Maze trails. Fairly flat riding with lots of twisty turns and old school loam building (aka rooty sections). One of the main builders in the area is called the Wizard, but I just call him Ron. Ron has built up this maze right in his backyard and are of great quality. I had to break out the GPS a couple of times but after a while, I just said Fuck it and end up turning right or left wherever the wind was taking me! Exploring brought out the kid in me, where usually I would be hammering trying for KOM, I was looking for little kickers to get some airs and hip jumps. I had a blast!!! Thanks Ron for the fun!!!
Where has the first quarter of the year gone? The winter season was filled with two trail projects – a climbing trail out of Langdale Creek and a loop trail around Wormy Lake. Also, it creates a hibernation of sorts from riding as a kind of starvation therapy to make one yearn for the wagon wheels once spring breaks. First the Langdale Creek trail – In 1990’s when the trail was built, the Lunge was strictly a one way trail down to the creek from Sprockids Park to the Ferry. Now, a lot riders and hikers like going back up this steep trail to get back to their cars. I and a couple of hardy few, built a longer switchback trail to ease our climbing efforts. 800m and took two months to build.
January 1st marked the start of trail work on Phareline. The burn in July 2015 took the life of a logger and friend, John Phare. Originally when I wanted to build a trail around the Wormy Lake in 2015 and it was going to be called Warren’s Worm. The project was shelved due to a lack of time but since the fire, many trails were built by the firefighters and much too tempting to be utilized and build new trail. The fire removed a lot of the understory including all the salal. This shrubby underbrush can create mats of roots that it makes difficult building. In this burn ground, digging is pretty productive.
Phareline was born and there were several builders that came out to help. Thank you!
The trail projects were all leading to the ultimate goal of hosting a 40km Sunshine Coaster Race. On April 1, we held this event in a new area and new venue! Excellent weather and excellent work on our trails created a fabulous day for all! I even got to shoot off the starting gun! It was super loud!
So that’s quick glance at my quarter year so far! I’m looking forward this summer for some epic rides including a bikepacking weekend adventure. Sunshine Coaster Facebook Page
Got It Right – Its Dumb Ass Luck – Whishart 29’er 140mm Long Travel Hardtail
Its taken close to 6 months from design to build to decide if I made a mistake in the design. The build:
– Whishart 29’er – steel hardtail – Paragon sliding dropouts; fillet brazed – Black pearl – Toxic Design Labs – 67deg HT; 73deg ST
– SRAM XX1 Drivetrain
– XTR M-985 Crank with Wolf Components 30 tooth ring
– Easton Haven 35mm Stem (50mm long)
– Chromag 35mm carbon bar
– Easton EC90 XC Wheelset
– RS Revelation RLT 140-110 DP Fork
– SRAM Guide RS Brakes
– RS Reverb Dropper Post
– Nevagal 2.2 Front tire
– Conti Trail King 2.2 Rear tire
Weight 27.2 lbs
Okay – so I know that most people could never afford this type of bike or get why; however not withstanding, mounting these parts to a never ridden; only designed frame. But, as soon as I mounted the pedals, strapped on my shoes, and threw my leg over top tube, I knew I had winner! The bike rides like its 27.5 bike on steroids, with short snappy rear end, short wheelbase, stiff & amazing ride. It climbs really well and similar to other 29’er bike in its stand and hammer on really steep trails. The downs are amazing on this bike and it seems that there are not many trails that I wouldn’t go down. In fact, I’m nailing off PR’s on Strava on steep technical steeps that I established on my G-Spot. This hardtail satisfies my previously empty part of my cycling soul and I’ve been drinking it up as much as I can. Most people will not get it and I can hear the “why bother, its just a bike”, but although I didn’t make it, I was there almost every step in the journey. Where the bike takes me now is unknown and I’m calling this part of the journey complete. It was fun, rewarding and I learned a lot!
Over the last several months I’ve been busy baking my own baby in the oven. In the Bikecad.ca oven so to speak! My last post explained why (http://www.coastmtb.com/public_html/?p=9) and since then I’ve reviewed countless bike geo’s, reviews and test rides. I started with a Chromag Surface design then tweaked the design based on Canfield’s Nimble 9, 44 bikes and the Kona Honzo. The final design ended up being a short chainstay, longer top tube, short stem, 140mm fork. The sliding dropouts were added for tweaking the ride and water bottle bosses for bike packing tours.
Throughout the design phase, my good friend Rob Warren from Whishart Cycles www.whishart.com helped me developed and finalize the design. Once we agreed to it, he was off ordering the tubes, and parts for the build. The headtube is a 44mm CNC unit, the sliding dropout is stainless from Paragon Machine works. The tubes are pre-bent (chainstays, seatstays) and the rest is a pick of Nova and Columbus tubes. The design will have 68 deg headtube with a 73 deg seat tube (using 120mm fork).
Rob uses fillet brazing to join the tubes and his workmanship is a thing of beauty! This is where a bike building becomes a real craft with emence patience and a critical eye. I visited Rob to see the build which was half assembled and I was like a little kid with a parent. Whats this? Whats that? How did you compensate for twist? Do you cold set? He was certainly patience with me.
I realized then that I was on a journey of cycling learning. I had to understand why mountain bikes were designed in the past, what worked and what didn’t and where design was going. Also,its not like I just visited the bike stores and chose an already built up bike like most folks. I had to really think about the essence of what trails I ride and why I ride. A bike design and its designer really needs to have a vision of what the rider is looking for. For larger bike companies, its a faceless rider; for small companies, maybe its for their local area. I chose to jump on a journey without not knowing the end result. Truly a trail less travel and I still don’t know if the bike is a dud!!! It could very well be a mistake or hopefully the best ride ever! We all know that a first design is a prototype and its design tweaked with later iterations. We’ll see about later revisions…but thats part of my life long cycling journey.
The rear stays are on the jig
This is a beautiful join of the a bent seat tube with the seat post insert
Bottom bracket area – the chainstays are crimped to allow a 2.4 Ardent tire
Front triangle on – rear seat stays last thing to join.
Life is complicated. Simply put. I don’t yearn for the days of a simple lifestyle as I get older because I like the rewards of having an complicated lifestyle… Its hard to put that into words, but for some things I do wish for less complicated things to keep me happy. Take cycling for example; I ride both road and mountain bikes – I like riding on the road, its simple, my mind can drift off and I can enjoy the view (when not on a busy road). I like when its done, it’s clean, clothes aren’t muddy and bike is put away dry and as new as the day I got it. But riding on the road is boring, and if I didn’t have music, I would be falling asleep at 50 km into the ride. I also like mountain biking, the trails keeps me concentrated on my balance, my skills and on the flow. But my mind can’t drift and to be set into auto pilot to solve work or life problems. 50km into a mountain bike ride, I AM EXHAUSTED. My bikes are complicated – Double tap, carbon frame, hydro formed aluminium, booster valving, dropper posts, high volume tires, tubular tires – 20 years of fiddling with bikes doesn’t make me any more comfortable breaking these parts open for routine maintenance. So what’s it going to take to push me into enjoying the simple things? I think that I may have the answer – 29er hardtail. It’ll be a custom made fillet brazed bike. The bike will be simple and I designed the bike to be simple. The oxymoron was that my journey of designing the bike was very complicated when trying to understand what are the best bike qualities I like the best. Head angles, chain stay length, reach, stack, stem length, bottom bracket drop all play a role in building a bike. Not having an appreciation of their effect on bike could mean that the bike could suck in one regard but be stellar in another. I just wanted that goldilocks of bikes to be justttt rightttt! I discovered that riding a bike is based on set of compromises and one bike CANNOT be the only one in the quiver. I thought so with my TCR road bike – it was fast and light, but 5 hours on it has your back screaming ‘uncle!’ I thought that my Cove was an one bike slayer but its too heavy for climbing hills fast or it’s not a Whistler Bike Park DH sled. So I think its about having a bike to suit the majority of your everyday trails and not heavily investing into other bikes that may or may not use 6-10 times/year. Oh you should still have those bikes on hand just in case you want to ride outside your everyday riding comfort zone. Gosh I’m complicated!
Long-travel Hardtail 29er
My solution is a bike that I can take on an adventure ride or short XC ride on the Sunshine Coast. Single chain ring up front (no derailleur). Short chain stays to be fun in tight twisty trails, but can be lengthen to provide that 29er straight line stability when carrying a load (Chilcotin). Dropper post? Are you kidding? I said simple, not to go back to the stone age. Will this be the bike to help me on my mid-life dream of simple life? Maybe – I do know that it will definitely be a ride that is simple to ride and that’s a step in the right direction.